I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles in the era of the worst air pollution – the 1960s. On the few days each year when storms washed away the thick yellow haze, the startling sight of glorious mountains ringing the L.A. basin reminded me that the toxic soup we lived in was not normal. I knew that car exhaust caused most of this pollution, but living in L.A. also meant living the car culture, and enjoying the freedom and mobility that cars provided.
The counterculture trends of the 1960s and ’70s taught me to question the status quo. The first Earth Day, the environmental movement, the peace movement -- these helped shape who I am. I became interested in journalism as a way to make a difference in the world, fueled by the Watergate scandal and exposé. (President Richard Nixon resigned on my 18th birthday. I gained the right to vote and lost a corrupt president on the same day!)
In my life and my work I seek out truth, justice, and a healthy, balanced way of life for both myself and the planet. “Think globally, act locally” is not just a slogan to me. These principles have taken me on a variety of paths, the most recent one being a journey toward clean, sustainable cars.
When my partner and I installed solar photovoltaic panels on our home in 1998 to lighten our footprint on the planet, I began longing for an electric car. This seemed the next logical step to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, the major automakers were beginning to lease electric cars in response to the California Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate. Driving our leased Ford Th!nkCity and making electricity with our solar panels was like driving a car that ran on sunshine. The U.S. already had fought one war over oil (Gulf War I), and we wanted as little to do with oil as possible.
Three years later, a lawsuit by the car companies eviscerated the Mandate, and Ford (like all the other automakers) demanded the return of leased electric cars, to be destroyed. They refused to sell them. Instead they crushed them. This outrageous demand spurred me to become active in the movements toward clean transportation and clean, sustainable energy.
Meanwhile, conflicts related to oil supplies generated terrorist attacks and another U.S. war in the Middle East. The evidence for global warming became overwhelming. Yet car companies keep feeding us only gasoline cars. Even conventional hybrids, while an improvement, cannot run without gasoline.
It’s clear to me that we already have at hand the technology to produce a new kind of car that will greatly reduce pollution, wean us off our dependence on oil, and please American consumers – the plug-in hybrid. Its success depends on your actions, and mine. Find out more in my book, Plug-in Hybrids: The Cars that Will Recharge America.